The Lions defense is tied for last in the NFL in points allowed, yielding 39 a game. The current top defense in the NFL, which belongs to the Los Angeles Rams, is surrendering just 6.5 points per game, and the NFL average defense is giving up about 22 points per game.
Giving up nearly twice the NFL average in points per game just as Tom Brady and the Patriots roll into town is downright terrifying.
“We certainly have things that we need to fix first and foremost, to make sure that those are taken care of before we play the Patriots,” Patricia said this week in his conference call with reporters. “That’s the biggest thing for us right now, that we just try to get the problems that we’ve had so far handled, so when we walk into the game, they’re still not an issue this weekend.”
The Lions have a lot to clean up and must do it quickly. Despite missing key offensive and defensive players, the Patriots are not a team you can take lightly.
What consistently impresses me (and frustrates opposing defenses) is how good the Patriots are at setting up certain offensive looks and making adjustments based on what the defense gives them.
Here’s a look at how the Patriots did this last week against the Jaguars:
Patriots last touchdown was set up beautifully. Watch Jaguars #44 Myles Jack and #25 D.J. Hayden fly to the football on the first two screen plays. As both of them commit downhill on the third play, it opens the slant window for an easy pitch and catch between Brady and Hogan. pic.twitter.com/BzmIfb1hsu— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) September 19, 2018
They run plays, see how the defense reacts, and then adjust accordingly. If the Lions aren’t careful those adjustments will go for big plays on Sunday.
The Patriots haven’t exactly hit their stride yet this season. So far they barely eked out a Week 1 win over the Houston Texans after having an 18 point lead, and lost in a relative beatdown at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
So what team is going to show to Ford Field on Sunday?
“We’re going to try as hard as we can to make up that ground as quickly as possible,” Belichick said at a press conference earlier this week. “It’s about where it usually is at this point in the season, just not at the point you like it to be at. It’s early, and there’s a long way to go. Hopefully, we can keep improving every day and every week.”
Patriots’ biggest threat
I don’t care how old he is. I don’t care how many quarrels he has with his head coach. I don’t even care how many Super Bowl rings he has.
The only thing I care about Tom Brady is how effective he is on Sunday.
Because, as I see it, he’s going to have to put this team on his back to stand a chance this season—even against the Lions.
Brady is so smart and effective at taking advantage of what teams want to do on defense. The trick for the players is to not overthink the situation on the field.
“With his level of expertise and his level to just understand defense, understand coverage, understand location, run-stick, I mean it’s the full package,” Patricia said. “I think you’re also in a situation though where people go out and try to do too much or trying to over-disguise something, you put yourself in a bad situation, [and] he’s going to find that pretty quick.”
Patriots’ weak link
The Patriots are 27th in the NFL in run yards allowed per game (135.5 per game). While the Patriots are traditionally a dominant team, run defense is not their strong suit.
Typically, the Patriots are able to make up for poor run defense by playing with the lead. This forces team to throw the ball more often and abandon the run.
The only way the Lions can exploit the Patriots’ lackluster run defense is to control the clock and successfully run a balanced offense.
Bill Belichick is 14-8 all-time against his former assistants.
That stat isn’t shocking. We all know how Belichick assistants have fared as NFL head coaches.
But it certainly isn’t comforting either.
The Lions will need to play a near flawless game if they stand any chance of winning. There won’t be many secrets between these two teams so everything will come down to execution—which doesn’t bode too well for the Lions.
Patriots 31 Lions 24